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CNN David Mattingly Visits JEM Classes


David Mattingly, a 20 plus year veteran of the news team at CNN visited campus and spoke to the students in JEM classes on February 25th and 26th discussing his career at CNN. Mattingly attended the JEM 400 class on Wednesday the 25th and discussed some of the major trials he had covered during his time at CNN, and on Thursday invited any faculty and staff to join him at lunch at Arena Dining before speaking to JEM 499 and JEM 200 classes. 

Dr. Stovall, a faculty member of the School of Journalism and Electronic Media, taught Mattingly in the first reporting class Stovall ever taught at the University of Alabama in 1979. Dr. Stovall discussed Mattingly's visit saying, "He talked about the different stories he had covered over the years and his style of television reporting where he doesn't mind putting himself into the story in the sense that he thinks the viewers need to see the process of the story being told and how it is put together. He has 35 years of experience and is very deliberate in what he does and how he does it. I've known David for a long time, and while most of us who have been reporters burn out after three to five years, he stuck with it for more than 30 years, which shows the dedication he had to it and the discipline he has. He has now left CNN and I'm waiting to see what he does next," said Dr. Stovall.

The following is from a telephone interview David Mattingly kindly agreed to do for the website regarding his visit to UT as well as his comments and advice for journalists. 

Q: Tell me about your visit to the University of Tennessee.

Mattingly: The couple of classes I spoke to were slightly different, but the most important thing I wanted to impress on the students was the opportunity they have right now. When I was an undergrad sitting in lecture like they are and I had to write an article or put together a video story, I had to go to a newspaper or television station. It required huge capital investments to have the equipment to put that material out, but you can do the same thing today with minimal investment and equipment that fits in a backpack. This profession is learned by doing, and in fact Dr. Stovall gave me the best advice in my entire career as my professor at Alabama: "To have patience with myself and to remember that good journalists aren't born, they're made." I have had that in mind for the past 35 years thanks to him and I wanted to impress that back on the students here to take advantage of any opportunity they can create such as publishing an article themselves, posting online, and continue to learn by doing. 

Q: What was the most enjoyable part of your visit?

Mattingly: I enjoyed the student's questions and responses of course, but reconnecting with Jim Stovall was the most enjoyable. When I was in his first journalism class at Alabama, he immediately impressed me because he had a lot of very real practical experience in the professional world. Because he was a reporter, he was able to provide us with a perspective that was not able to come out of a textbook at the time, and now 30 plus years later he became the man who literally wrote the textbook for young journalists. 

Q: Any additional advice or comments?

Mattingly: I was at CNN for 23 years, and for 10 years prior to that I was doing local TV in Birmingham, Alabama. At the local station, I was both anchoring and reporting, while doing something unique no one else in the country was doing: producing environmental documentaries for the station. I wanted to let the students know that I was fortunate enough to work in a place where I was limited only by my creativity and the station's budget. They were more than happy to let me do something outside of what was considered normal if I had a creative idea, as it was rewarding for both me and the station. I was putting things on air that no one else was and it was the work I was doing there that allowed me to get a job at CNN.